MDC needs new leader to shake off paralysis

Zanu (PF) was long ago hijacked by greedy opportunists and the opposition seems powerless to change the country’s fortunes. PIUS WAKATAMA analyses the state we’re in and how we got here.


After a prolonged struggle, ZAPU and ZANU decided to take up arms. This resulted in political independence in 1980. Unfortunately political independence did not bring the freedom for which the people yearned and had struggled for.

The highly idealistic Zanu (PF), which ended up holding the reins of power, was hijacked by greedy opportunists who now claim that they, and they alone, fought for the liberation of the country and are, therefore, the only ones who qualify for political leadership.

Violence was promptly visited upon any and all who dared question this fallacious premise. Because of poor governance and corruption, the once robust economy started to disintegrate and ordinary people became impoverished.

An old lady in a certain village was heard to say: “Ko, iyo indipendenzi yacho ichapera riiko, tikachigara zvedu zvakanaka sezvatakanga takaita kare pasina nzara nekurohwa kwevanhu vasina mhosva?” (When is this independence going to end so that we can live as before without hunger and the beating up of innocent people?) What an indictment!

When the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, was formed in the year 2000, Zimbabweans welcomed it with open arms. To them, it was not just another conventional political party of individuals seeking political power but a representation of their deepest feelings and aspirations. It was the continuation of the people’s movement towards the real freedom that Zanu (PF) had failed to deliver.

Under threat

Despite being harassed, beaten and arrested, Tsvangirai and his colleagues refused to be cowed. They bravely led the party until the violent and shambolic elections of 2008. When Tsvangirai refused to participate in a presidential re-run because of the unprecedented violence meted out against members of his party by Zanu (PF), there was an impasse.

On the other hand, the economy had virtually collapsed and the Zimbabwe dollar had become valueless. Shop shelves were empty and basic essentials were non-existent. People were hungry and soldiers were rioting and looting those shops with anything in them. The situation was so bad that the government itself was under threat.

In 2009, the SADC stepped in and appointed then South African president Tambo Mbeki to mediate between Zanu (PF) and the MDC to save the situation. Some in and outside the MDC were apprehensive. They did not trust Mbeki and South Africa to broker a fair deal.

However, a seemingly acceptable deal called the global political agreement (GPA) was reached and it ushered in the government of national unity (GNU).

Still, some Zimbabweans remained apprehensive. They did not believe that Zanu (PF) would adhere to the terms of the GPA, which called for reforms that obviously threatened Zanu’s grip on power.

They felt that, instead of joining Zanu in the GNU, the MDC should have insisted on fresh elections supervised by the SADC and the AU and observed by the international community.

Their apprehension proved to be well-founded. The so-called government of national unity proved to be a government of national disunity. The MDC was given the ministry of finance without the finance.

Money from the diamond fields did not go into the national coffers for the minister to use. He had to use his own ingenuity to keep the country afloat.

Zanu (PF) ran the justice and security ministries, which continued to intimidate, harass and imprison innocent MDC supporters and journalists who dared to write the truth.

No reforms

After four years, none of the key reforms in the signed global national agreement had been implemented because of Zanu (PF)’s intransigence.

Since the life of the GNU was nearing the end, the MDC assured the people that there would be no national elections without the fulfilment of all the agreed reforms.

Many Zimbabweans were, therefore, aghast when Tsvangirai announced that his party was going to contest the July 31 elections, despite the fact that the GPA reforms had not been carried out. He went on to assure the country that, in spite of this, the MDC was going to win resoundingly.

Instead of mobilising the party to watch out for Zanu shenanigans, the MDC leadership, especially its leader, had been lulled to sleep by the cunning of old, but wily, Robert Mugabe. People are now saying in Shona: “Tsvangirai akadyiwa nemunyati akabva avharwa namudhara Bob.”

Over cups of tea, President Mugabe had cleverly led a gullible Morgan Tsvangirai into believing that the MDC was going to win and he would concede defeat and graciously hand over power to him. It is said that Mugabe actually asked him to grant him, and other Zanu leaders, amnesty from prosecution after he assumed power.

The very next day, Tsvangirai announced that Mugabe was a very wise leader and, when he assumed the presidency, he would grant him amnesty from prosecution for any crimes he might have committed while in office.

His sidekick, Nelson Chamisa, faithfully echoed the same condescending sentiments about Mugabe’s so-called wisdom.

While Tsvangirai was confidently strutting around the country and addressing rallies of thousands, assuring them that they were going to win and that they should now look upon him as president-elect, Mugabe and his Nikuv cronies were busy putting their rigging machinery into top gear.

Tsvangirai was so confident, he was not even worried that three days before the elections his party has not seen the voters’ roll!

When the election results were announced, the MDC was shocked. With mouths wide open with incredulity, they just could not accept that they had lost and by such a wide margin. “Foul,” cried Tsvangirai. “These elections were rigged!”

Of course, the elections were rigged but where was he when the rigging was going on? Why did he not cry foul then? Why did he go into the elections before the GPA reforms were implemented? Why did he not pull out of the elections when he failed to get the voters’ roll in time?

Silent MDC

The MDC-T was shocked into a state of numbness, confusion and inactivity by its defeat. The much-harassed Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), led by the undaunted Jenny Williams and her colleague Magodonga Mahlangu, seems to be more active and relevant to the needs of the moment than the party.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum wrote in The Zimbabwean recently: “As the country fumbles through economic darkness, there is no word from the opposition, the MDC. Although one would imagine that they are currently regrouping and recharging, being quiet at such a crucial juncture is certainly a huge disappointment to those who expected them to be laying policy alternatives on the table and holding the government to account for its policies or lack of them.”

After the dismal failure of last July’s elections, many senior and grassroots members of the party are calling for a change in the MDC leadership.

The only decent thing for Tsvangirai and his colleagues at the top to do is to resign and let the party choose a new leadership.

If he still wants to continue as leader, then he should seek a new mandate from the party. Not doing so will definitely lead to the disintegration of the MDC and the loss of hope for the whole nation.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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